It was nice to see Mr. Steinberg's name pop up today. Seems like it's been a while. We can always expect a challenge when we encounter him late in the week, and today was no exception. It was a funny puzzle, though, because we filled the grid in completely in under half an hour, but it didn't take. There were so many crosses we were unsure of that I started to despair, but in the end it was a simple typo that did us in (and, officially, gave us the DNF) - we had LEONTiNE (48A: Price of an opera?), and I was so concerned with crosses elsewhere in the grid that I never got down to the SE to check on it.
So, all this talk of "problem areas," well, let's get to a few. Right off the bat, neither of us knew for sure about STILLDRE (1A: 1999 rap hit featuring Snoop Dogg). I mean, sure, it seems plausible because of Dr. Dre, but maybe Snoop was on a little temperance kick, and it could have been "Still Dry," and the 8D: Dutch city ESE of Amsterdam could have just as easily been "Yde" as "Ede" as far as we knew. And then there was the 29D: Mary ____ (doomed ship) (DEARE) crossing DESERET (29A: Informal name of the 45th state). I have since looked up "Deseret," and it derives from the word for "honeybee" in the Book of Mormon. Damn mormons. I've heard of "the Beehive State," sure, but "Deseret?" Well, I've learned something new, so that's good...
And finally we have the STEARNES (35A: Turkey ____, baseball Hall-of-Famer from the Negro leagues)/TESSA (36D: Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Virtue and others)/DEODATO (33D: Musician who arranged the theme for "2001") cluster. It all seemed reasonable, but we weren't really certain about any of it. Still, if not for that Y, we would have finished very quickly. So close!
Anyway, aside from all our drama, there were some great entries in here. Great cluing for TRIPLED (17D: Didn't make it home, say), THEOREMS (38A: They get tested), CONEHEADS (13A: Classic TV family), and the aforementioned LEONTYNE. And there was tons of interesting fill like - TELEXES, GALILEE, FAUNAS, ARCTANGENT, AMOEBAE (love the proper spelling!), and BISCAYNE.
Great challenge for Friday. I'm a little sad about our little mishap, but hey, we're not solving for money or fame, only for fun, and this had plenty of that.